“The most shocking moment in my life was when I was told that in two days I was leaving my country. It was a small moment in in which I felt that the world was falling on top of me.” ––English Learning High School Student (from the book Where the Rainbow Ends)
The purpose and value of Where the Rainbow Ends is spelled out clearly in the book’s preface by editors Jamie Hinds and Savanna Payne when they tell us: “Throughout the pandemic, our students have witnessed other historical events that took place in 2020. They have become witnesses to movements that are hearing silenced voices for the first time… They have become witnesses to change.”
The extraordinary significance of those words is demonstrated repeatedly in the collection of brief stories written by more than 90 anonymous English Learning Students in the Oklahoma City Public Schools system. These brave young authors range from fifth-graders to high-schoolers.
Intense debates regarding the migration of populations around the world have been ongoing for the better part of a decade but the voices of youth whose lives are most impacted by those debates are, as indicated, rarely acknowledged. Within this volume, they come through loudly and understandably enough. The word ‘understandably’ is emphasized here because the editors have very wisely left speech patterns and vocabulary as originally penned. These are, after all, individuals who are slowly adjusting to new ways of comprehending, relating, and behaving on different levels.
Those of us already proficient in the English language might wrinkle our brows when reading certain sentences with obviously faulty grammar. But we know what the authors mean and these sentences help us understand the gigantic challenge of uprooting oneself from a known cultural environment and reestablishing your life in a new unfamiliar locale. The most hard-hitting statements go beyond such considerations as syntax and brings to mind what the great Harlem Renaissance leader W.E.B. Du Bois called the worst blow which people of African descent suffered during slavery in America: the destruction of the Black Family.
Human migrations forced by desperation in our modern times have resulted in similar devastation; however, in the pages of Where the Rainbow Ends we experience painful separations as well as healing reunions. So it is that one student recalls prior to leaving El Salvador: “My sister went to the USA when I turned 4 years old but she got a VISA to get here so I have no memories of her.” The opportunity to make new memories would not come easily but it would come. Another student from Honduras demonstrated the importance of such a prospect when declaring: “And I learned to love my dad after seven years I was separated from him.”
Published by Project VOICE Industries, the 167 pages which make up this “collection of voices” represent a particularly important addition to discussions on immigration policies at a time when a new U.S. presidential administration has reversed executive decisions made by the previous one. That reversal has prompted a new wave young people, many without parental supervision, to take their chances on entering the United States under dangerous and illegal conditions.
Hopefully, additional volumes or ones similar to Where the Rainbow Ends will present readers with the flip side of the immigration coin by sharing the voices of different Americans’ experiences of adapting to immigrants. That is something I attempted to do in the story “A Brazilian Thanksgiving in Savannah” published in Dreams of the Immortal City Savannah. For the time being, it’s good enough to know my quote at the beginning of Where the Rainbow Ends has played some small role in helping the student authors amplify their voices and educate the world about the realities of one of the most consequential concerns of our volatile historical times.